Who Is Art For?

Welcome to Canvassing, our weekly look at the conversations that surround the Dallas art world. Pull up a chair. Stay with us for a while. The view's pretty nice from here.

Alright, everyone. We're going to do things a little bit differently today.

We're going to take a break from our regular news-and-notes style and, instead, take some closer looks at a few of the biggest art happenings going on around town this week — while asking some big questions about each.

As always, try to take in as many of these events as you can. And maybe ask these same questions I've laid out below as you do.

THURSDAY.

“In The Heart” by Richard Andrew Sharum at Kettle Art Gallery from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Kettle Art has long been a hub for artists in Deep Ellum. But with D Magazine recently including a piece on Kettle Art's founder, Frank Campagna, in its 40th anniversary issue and the Dallas Observer featuring Campagna in its own “People” issue this summer, it's safe to that this too has been a good year for Campagna and Kettle Art. And why not? One of the distinctive features of Kettle Art Gallery is its ability to blend populist art with professional career artists. This show is a fine example of that: The front room of the gallery will display submissions from Kettle Art's photography competition “7522-Pix,” which was basically a crowd-sourced invitation to take an iconic shot of Deep Ellum on whatever photographic device one had access to, and the back room will feature work by Richard Andrew Sharum, an internationally exhibited — and locally inventive — photographer with an impressive resume. This is one of things that makes Kettle unique. Clearly the gallery has the ability to attract artists whose work is part of national or international conversation about art — and yet they're also open to lending their wall space to the artists who are just now starting by drawing comics or the artists who only takes pictures via Instagram. It's impressive.

FRIDAY.

“Fair Game” by Thor Johnson at Midway Gallery from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Midway Gallery is a brand new space run by Lily Taylor and Sean Miller — and, not unlike Kettle, it at first blush too appears to be interested in both accessibility and rigor. But there's other stuff at play here, too: By projecting photographs and video onto the windows of the gallery, Midway creates an atypical and accessible viewing situation. Namely, anyone walking along the street can experience the art without even entering the gallery space. And this show is a smart use of that ability: Thor Johnson's exhibit — pictures from the State Fair of Texas, shown during the actual State Fair, at a space literally next to The State Fair — is clearly a calculated attempt at both accessibility and attention. I join Glasstire's Christina Rees in wondering how the public actually engages with these attempts, but, hey, at least there's some effort.

SATURDAY.

Fall For The Arts at Klyde Warren Park from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The biggest physical art event of the weekend is Fall For The Arts — although, for whatever reason, this event doesn't seem to be on the radar of many people in the contemporary art scene. That's weird: Fall For The Arts, which features a juried 30-person show and a day of performances by some of the best performing arts groups in town, is being heavily promoted by CBS Radio, TACA, Office of Cultural Affairs and Business Council for the Arts. I have been a strong critic of those last two organizations over the years, but the audience that attends this event will be a closer representation of “Dallas” than the audience at most gallery shows, and that's something that shouldn't be discounted.

“Pastelgram no. 4” Dallas Launch at The Wild Detectives at 3 p.m.
Artist Mary Walling Blackburn will be launching her magazine at Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff with talks from herself, Noah Simblist, Beatriz E. Balanta and Ariel Evans. When you have a collection of academics coming together like this, the subject matter tends to skew intellectual in a way that's not accessible — but, by hosting it at the Wild Detectives instead of at Southern Methodist University, where most of these speakers teach, this event too is an admirable attempt at a greater accessibility.

Student Exhibition at The Encaustic Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This is obvious: Ample exhibition opportunities lead to better artists. Makes sense: An exhibition is an opportunity to have the public engage with your art making and an opportunity to figure out how to best present one's work. Yet artists come in such a large range, and deciding who deserves space and conversation is often a political act, although we're all super quick to pretend that it's not. Culture is inherently political, folks. It relates to who we are as citizens, who we are as human beings. For what it is worth: All exhibitions are student exhibitions.

100th Anniversary Show curated by Nicole Stutzman Forbes at The Continental Lofts from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Last year, there were a lot of milestone anniversaries in the Dallas Art World. Perhaps most notably among these? The Dallas Contemporary's 35-year anniversary, which the Contemporary celebrated with a 35-hour block of programming that was mostly excellent, albeit marred by some deeply troubling relationships with race. Anyway, here's my question: What does one do to celebrate 100 years? I, for one, am very excited to find out. And, if anyone is smart enough to do it well, it's the underappreciated Nicole Stutzman Forbes. Plus, I just like the idea of putting together an exhibition of artists who live in the same apartment building. But I wonder: Is an exhibition like this is the cause or the effect of creative place-making?

Louder Than A Bomb Graffiti Art Show at Fashion Art Network from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
I've written previously that street art is having a moment in Dallas right now. That, in and of itself, is interesting: By nature and history, street art attracts artists who often fall outside of the traditional contemporary art system. These artists tend to be diverse. The audiences that attend these shows tend to be diverse. Once again, they tend to be a more accurate depiction of “Dallas” than the audience at many contemporary gallery shows. That said, a graffiti art show could not be more different than a classical music-driven day at the park (see above preview for Fall For The Arts). Yet, somehow, these two shows are getting the same point across — that art is for the public and not merely for the elite.

SUNDAY.

Expanded Cinema at The Omni Hotel at 8 p.m.
Speaking of rigor meeting accessibility: There may be no better local example of this concept that Bart Weiss' Expanded Cinema concept. You should read Danielle Georgiou's excellent write-up previewing this event, but, basically, just know that video art will be displayed this weekend on the outside of Omni Hotel in Downtown for all of Dallas to look at — and that, hopefully, thousands of people will be engaged. No, not all art needs to be spectacle. Nor do all spaces need to engage with diverse audiences. But spectacle can be subversive, and every art scene has something to teach us about who we are — not to mention where we're going.

Cover image courtesy of Richard Andrew Sharum.

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